Who am I?
Today I was reminded again of how a high percentage of men see their identity through their job or career choice. As client after client is reduced to depression, tears, addiction, and self-hatred because they cannot find work, they ask me how not to take this personally. The explosion of high-tech industries only furthers to alienate those who had jobs in management, production, sales and the film industry.
Perhaps a new paradigm is being formed, where there is room for only the very young who are gifted in the technologies of the present time. Many cannot see themselves in this economy, much less keep pace with the new social networks that appear to be driving it. However, the future will eventually demonstrate that these times are damaging many of the younger unemployed who have never gotten their foot in the door, much less worked at a job over a four-year period. Their sense of self is still in its infancy. Most have not had success in the workplace or felt the sensation of mastery that comes with it. Many remain fluid— optimistic and trusting that something will come their way. How
long can this sense of trust last?
It’s been almost four years since the economic collapse, and clients are beginning to hemorrhage their self-worth. Three or four years is an eternity when you’re in your late twenties or early thirties.
People now between the ages of forty-five and sixty were able to take time in their twenties to explore their options and to have a period of internship in any number of trades, careers and occupations before finding a suitable and satisfying position in the workplace. Today’s youth do not have that luxury. Many are lucky to have a job at all, but I would venture to say that a good twenty-five percent have had only one option and that was to move back home.
This step backwards is a humbling experience that can distort the natural developmental stage of “leaving the nest” and learning to trust oneself out in the world, absent from parental oversight.
I speak from not only the experience of listening to many clients in my practice, but, also from my own perceptions as a twenty-four year old who moved to New York knowing only one person in Manhattan, with just one bag and my own youthful optimism I was going to make my mark there. That core belief in myself was firm, as it should have been for any young man fresh out of school. “No” was not an option for me. I believed so strongly that I could do whatever I wanted that I did get several jobs that were ideal for who I was then. Beyond that, the possibilities seemed endless.
I haven’t heard that kind of optimism in my practice in four years, nor do I see it anywhere out there, except perhaps among the very rich, who it appears, are just lucky to be born to wealth and privilege.
This is a time when the young need mentoring and someone older to believe in them. We all know someone whom we can help emotionally during difficult times. Right now the youth require a new perspective, a more detached view of themselves to counteract the experiences that have only left them feeling incomplete or damaged. A career is vitally important, of course, but it is only a part of who a person is on the larger stage of life.
Mentoring is a two-way street that is mutually beneficial, because each partner has a generational perspective to share. From my own experience I can say that this has been consistently true.